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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Steam House Revealed

My novella, Infinite Realities, is known for being allegorical. And yes, intentionally, it is. One reviewer mentioned how the allegory wasn't all that hidden, was on the surface. And I made some of them that way on purpose. But there are levels here, not all of it is obvious.

The book has been out for nearly two and a half years now, and though I know there are a lot of people who haven't read it yet, I thought it was time to dive into some of the allegory behind it. And to start off, I wanted to focus on the central building and room, the Steam House in Sisko's home village--Reol.

This is an interesting one, in that it took on a life of its own. I had two thoughts in the back of my mind that it represented, but one of them really developed into its main theme even though it wasn't a major thought at the time I created it.

Keep in mind, the idea for this story arose from a challenge at a critique group I frequent. A magazine was running a contest and the short story for it had to deal with the theme "hot" in some fashion. As I began rolling ideas through my brain, one jumped out at me in short order. The Last Judgment. In traditional Christian theology, the concept of hell wasn't so much a place as a state of existence before God. This is clearly depicted through the Old Testament where God is depicted as fire, or a brilliant glory. You see this predominately in God's leading the Israelites from Egypt, and especially in Moses experience of God, seeing his backside. For as God tells Moses, no man can see God's face and live.

You also see this theme presented in the Psalms, one of the more overt is:
Jehovah reigneth; let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad. Clouds and darkness are round about him: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, And burneth up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lightened the world: The earth saw, and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of Jehovah, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, And all the peoples have seen his glory.
(Psa 97:1-6 ASV)

Thou wilt make them as a fiery furnace in the time of thine anger: Jehovah will swallow them up in his wrath, And the fire shall devour them.
(Psa 21:9 ASV)

In Revelations it makes this link clear as well:
He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
(Rev 14:10 ASV)

And that the source of the "Lake of Fire" is before God's throne:
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing by the sea of glass, having harps of God.
(Rev 15:2 ASV)

Well, so much for the mini Bible study. Point being, those who haven't been saved, haven't been given the life of God through Jesus Christ, experience His presence as a literal hell, while those who have been, experience it as light and joy. It is that concept that I wanted to depict in this steam house. The allegory is in large part pointed or foreshadowing the Last Judgment, where every man and woman's deeds will be revealed, where we will be tested "as through the fire" and our real character revealed.

It is in part why through the series, there is no magic or power that can stand up to the steam house's, because it is analogous to the ultimate power, God Himself. It reveals God's presence and the user of the steam house is either ready for it or isn't. It reveals the hidden reality of each person's life, in this story, characterized by what it changes one into, or for those whose hearts are in the right place, what it enables them to do for God, as in Sisko's case.

But the steam house isn't just that, because otherwise we would be talking about the end of the story instead of its beginning. And that is what the steam house really ends up representing. I had a hint of that initially in that I made the building octagonal. If one goes back into their Christian history, especially were it involves the construction of the baptisteries, they were usually created with eight sides. This was a representation of the eighth day.

What is the eighth day? Glad you asked. In Genesis 1, it states that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and He rested on the seventh, otherwise known as the Sabbath. Many have lost this connection because we tend to call Sunday the Sabbath, but in the early Church, it was not so. Saturday was still the Sabbath. When Christ descended into Hades, to free those held captive there by death, it is understood that He rested on the Sabbath as well, only to arise on the next day. This day of His resurrection was considered a new day of creation, the eighth day of creation, when Christ made all things new through His resurrection. He opened up the way into Paradise for those trapped in Hades.

Therefore, baptism was seen as this entry into the eighth day, our route into Paradise, where the person was created new, forgiven their sins, and made alive unto God. So when I created the steam house, I had the Last Judgment foremost in my mind, but I also had this connection with baptism in there. And that theme ended up becoming the dominate analogy of the steam house.

And the cool thing is, that an element of the Last Judgment is still in baptism. For we are dying to the Old Man, dross is burned away primarily because we are exposed to His life--His glory. And because it is through Christ, it saves us instead of destroys us.

So you see, when someone goes into the Steam House, they never come out unaffected. Even a demon. Especially a demon. And those so blessed by it, leave with a mission and the ability to perform that mission while those who aren't ready to encounter God are forced to deal with who they really are.

What will happen when we encounter God's unfiltered presence? And are you prepared to see the reality that lies within you when that happens?

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